Quartet of SMC Academic Stars Present to American Chemical Society in Orlando

While many friends and colleagues were romping in the southern sunshine over Spring Break, four Southwestern Michigan College students were busy advancing their academic careers by presenting research at the American Chemical Society’s National Meeting & Expo in Orlando, Florida.

They range in age from 17 to 20 years old, but were in the spotlight sharing their research on multiple fronts seemingly yards away from those who were frolicking in the surf.

Chemistry instructor Dr. Douglas Schauer’s students 17 year old Anaya Roschyk from Granger; 17-year old Audrey Bakerson of Niles; 20-year old Jacob Campbell from Edwardsburg; and 18-year old Natalie Adams, also from Edwardsburg, all participated in the undergraduate research poster session at the Orange County Convention Center.

Roschyk, who evaluated maple leaves for removing toxic heavy metals from water, has also been accepted for the Yale Young Global Scholars program, which runs July 28th to August 10th.

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She will spend two weeks in New Haven, Connecticut, attending lectures and seminars while completing a collaborative project in biological and biomedical science. Participants hail from more than 100 countries across the globe. Sessions can accommodate 220-250 students. Last summer, just 24-percent of applicants made the cut.

Roschyk says, “I have a huge passion for both chemistry and music,” and adds, “If I go into chemistry, I’d like to research how music affects your brain. Music therapy is a fascinating subject.” She’ll tackle that subject this week, on Wednesday, April 17th at SMC’s NoTED Talks, and says, “The instructors here at SMC are incredibly supportive, encouraging and really want you to succeed.” She adds, “It’s always been a dream of mine to go to Yale.”

She played electric guitar in the “Scenes from the Station” variety show last October, acted in the spring musical “Sweeney Todd” and soloed on “Minnie the Moocher” in March at Dowagiac’s Beckwith Theatre. Roschyk began writing songs at 8 and released her first album, “Catching Stars,” at 9.  Her songs tackle topics from bullying to war in Syria.

Bakerson, who wants to be a doctor, attends the Berrien Springs Math and Science Center. Though graduating from SMC on May 4th with an associate degree, she says, “I’ll be there for another year and will work on my bachelor’s degree while finishing my senior year. This will allow me to work on research at Andrews University and possibly do an internship. After this, I plan to continue my education and receive my medical degree.”

Bakerson’s project tried to create a super plant to remove pollutants from the environment by mutating ryegrass seed with ultraviolet C radiation and starving the grass from cations with a potassium nitrate buffer.

She says, “The experience was awesome,” and adds, “I’d definitely recommend it to other students. A bunch of other people presenting were in graduate school. It’s awesome to see my work holds up to those standards.”

Her FIRST Robotics team made it to state finals last week at Saginaw Valley State University, and she says, “At our last competition, I was live on ESPN for an interview! After this weekend, we are hoping to have enough points for world competition in Detroit.”

Audrey, who lives in Niles, is Miss Apple Festival. Her sister, Aliea, is Miss Niles.

Campbell, a pre-med major, studied a rare disorder that causes certain amino acids to be filtered into kidneys, but not back out, crystallizing into stones. It’s rare, affecting one in 10,000 people, so little research data existed.

Campbell aspires to be a medical research doctor. He is weighing the University of Michigan, Western Michigan University and Alma College to study biochemistry.

Campbell found the ACS experience “Exciting,” adding, “You spend so much time on something and finally someone’s watching you explain it. You could ‘nerd out’ and nobody stared at you because everybody there knew what you were talking about. What makes SMC kind of unique is how diverse its teachers are with their interesting backgrounds. They didn’t go to school to learn a subject to teach. They went out and did it, then decided to teach.”

Adams, a horticulture major, eventually wants to own a farm market in a low-income area to give poor people access to fresh produce.

Adams says, “I studied at what point cilantro becomes unusable for filtration for clean water,” and notes, “The Orange County Convention Center is huge, the biggest building I’ve ever been in. It was a good experience getting to know each other. I was kind of worried about being a loner because we weren’t friends before, but we all got closer on the trip. I didn’t know Anaya and Audrey are high school students taking classes here. They’re really impressive.”

It wasn’t all work, as Adams notes, “Wednesday we went to Cape Canaveral,” home of the Kennedy Space Center. She intends to transfer to Michigan State University after another year at SMC, and tells us, “It was cool to see the rockets. It was nice being able to have a short vacation while getting the experience of going to one of those conferences. I didn’t know what to expect because it’s all new to me. It was actually my first time flying!”

In the photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market are, (from left to right): Jacob Campbell, Nat Adams, Anaya Roschyk, Audrey Bakerson and Gary Franchy, SMC Honors Program co-advisor. The photo is courtesy of SMC.